During last night's debate, which centered on foreign policy and national security, Newt Gingrich may have been the only one, aside from Ron Paul, who said anything that broke against the party policy lines. Gingrich, who has been driving up in the polls, recently got flack from a lot of people for suggesting that students in schools be made to do janitorial work. During last night's debate, this did not come up, but Gingrich redeemed himself somewhat, at least in my mind, by making a strong case for reasonable deportation exceptions on illegal immigrants.
While many of the other candidates berated Newt for this, he stuck to his views, which is a nice change from the sniveling pandering to absolute conservative doctrine that these debates usually entail. Newt made the point that, if an illegal immigrant that came here 25 years ago has set up shop, had their family, joined a church and gotten involved in the community, it is not in the best interests of anyone to deport them back to their own country. Gingrich noted that this does not apply to illegals who have no ties to America or who break other laws while they are here. In fact, Gingrich even said that those who have been here a long time and have families here should be allowed to be made into legal residents, even if they are not considered full citizens.
This last point is a good one, but it went right over most of the other candidates' heads. They all claimed this was "amnesty" which it's not. Amnesty involves making the immigrant a full citizen with all the rights that entails. What Gingrich said is that you make the person a legal resident, so that they are no longer labeled and illegal alien. I think the distinction Gingrich was trying to make is that immigrants legalized in this way may be counted in a census, taxed, and allowed to have driver's licenses and work here under their real names, but that they are not full citizens, and therefore cannot hold office, vote, or have any of those rights that are afforded to citizens only. That is an important view to take, because it represents a significant departure from the black-and-white, all-or-nothing mantra of the Right, and is a relatively reasonable proposal.
Other candidates tried to make claims about solving the illegal immigration issues, including increasing border security, finishing the fence, applying more border agents, and cutting back on the things that lure immigrants here. This last point especially was disheartening to hear, since many of the things that lure illegals here are what lure legal immigrants and what make America a great nation. To say that we should give that up is ridiculous.
Overall, I think Newt made some good points, and only Ron Paul really beat him out on the debate in my opinion. While I still hold reservations about the candidates, Gingrich has gained some of my respect for this debate. Who knows, maybe he'll shed some of his more ridiculous views in order to appeal to people like me.